Ah, hello there friends. It’s been quite a week since we last chatted. Last week I talked about how close I came to passing an important career test. One point away!
Well, I’ve had a week to reflect on myself – my personal journey and where I go from here. I’m a religious person but I understand that not everybody is so I won’t beat folks over the head. I will say though that I personally think that I failed that test for a reason. I’ve always known that I’m supposed to work with elementary school children. I was looking to follow the middle school math track because it was a quick and easy way for me to get into teaching in a position that I knew I’d find a job in. Well, maybe the quick path isn’t what’s meant for me. I need to take some prerequisite courses but I’ll be pursuing an endorsement in elementary education. As for now, I’m thinking that kindergarten or first grade would be ideal and I’ll be taking courses over the next year to make that happen.
All the while, I’ll be bringing you folks some sweet Commander brews! So, let’s get on with that shall we? Since the release of Amonkhet I’ve been carefully constructing decks for each of the Legendary Creatures from Amonkhet. This week I bring to you Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons. Let’s figure out what makes her tick shall we?
So first and foremost, Hapatra wants to poison creatures, which in this sense refers to adding -1/-1 counters to them. She doesn’t even care whose creatures are being poisoned! Let’s start by adding a bunch of ways of making creatures slightly weaker. Let’s focus on three main sets that have a -1/-1 theme: Amonkhet, Eventide block, and Scars of Mirrodin.
Most of the ways in which Magic uses -1/-1 counters are as a method of creature kill. Let’s go ahead and add a few! We can add a sprinkling of focused effects like Splendid Agony, Grasping Dunes, Contagion Clasp, Skinrender, and Grim Affliction. Generally though, Commander decks need to interact with a whole board of stuff. Thankfully, there are ways of dealing with large groups of undesireables as well such as Midnight Banshee, Soul Snuffers, and Contagion Engine.
Of course, the most obvious inclusion in this list is Black Sun’s Zenith. Like many Commander player when they saw Hapatra, I was immediately drawn to the synergies this card has with the black board wipe. With Hapatra out, casting Black Sun’s Zenith even for only one means we get to collect all of the Snake tokens. Black Sun’s has been an awesome tool for black decks for years, killing creatures that otherwise might be difficult to handle – maybe because they’re indestructible? – and now we’ve got a downright legitimate reason to include it. It also shuffles itself back into the deck to be drawn and used again at a later point. What’s not to love?
Whenever I build a Commander deck, I like to find cards that I’ve never played in Commander before but work well with our general for one reason or another. In this deck, those cards are Serrated Arrows, Serrated Biskelion and Trigon of Corruption. While these cards might be rather slow, we can pin point and decide when and where to throw -1/-1 counters on creatures in order to get our snake tokens at instant speed.
-1/-1 Counter benefits
Now that we have plenty of ways for creatures to collect -1/-1 counters, let’s find out what else we can do with them.
I wanted to point out Liliana, Death Wielder for a second here. While she is very expensive, clocking in at a whopping 7 mana, she seems downright awesome in this deck. With so many -1/-1 counters being thrown around, it’s not too hard to destroy just about any creature with her. Lily can also start putting -1/-1 counters onto creatures every turn which translates to a convenient blocker with deathtouch to protect her. If we’re lucky enough to ultimate her, returning all of our creature cards from our graveyard to the battlefield should be a solid way to reap a huge advantage. The Death Wielder may not be the strongest Liliana every printed but, she seems to fit into this deck very nicely.
Moving on. Hapatra doesn’t have to be the only card to give us benefits for putting -1/-1 counters on creatures. There’s also Amonkhet’s own Nest of Scarabs and the slightly weaker Flourishing Defenses both of which will give us 1/1s for our trouble. With Blowfly Infestation out, the counters can start flying since whenever a creature dies the enchantment will put a -1/-1 counter on another creature. It’s fun to point out there’s a sort of convoluted infinite combo with these enchantments working in concert, creating and killing lowly 1/1s over and over again. With something like Blood Artist or Zulaport Cutthroat out, we’ve got ourselves a legitimate, on-theme instant win.
Next up, let’s go with some creatures that enter the battlefield with -1/-1 counters such as Channeler Initiate, Decimator Beetle, Wickerbough Elder, Carnifex Demon, Grim Poppet, Noxious Hatchling, and Deity of Scars. All of these guys not only start out with counters on them from the get go, but we can use their counters for various effects as the game goes long such as enchantment or artifact destruction.
There are some other creatures that have more unique interactions with -1/-1 counters. With Necroskitter on the battlefield, we’ll nab many of our opponents’ creatures that die. Crumbling Ashes will start destroying creatures that have -1/-1 counters on them on our upkeep. Since we’re bound to wind up with -1/-1 counters on our creatures, we can feed them to Quillspike, growing him large in the process. Finally, Dusk Urchins, will let us draw a slew of cards if we’re lucky.
“Whenever you put one or more -1/-1 counters on a creature, create a 1/1 green Snake creature token with deathtouch.”
While this isn’t a Snake tribal deck, I figured we might end up with quite a few snakes, so why not aim for a mini-snake theme. The best way to capitalize on that is by playing Seshiro the Anointed who will not only pump all of our snakes by +2/+2, he’ll allow us to draw cards whenever they deal combat damage to players as well. Speaking of snakes, we can also make snakes with Pharika, God of Affliction. Pharika also works as a way to hinder those pesky reanimator decks, exiling whatever creature our opponents may be trying to reanimate.
Tokens! Since we’ll be making a bunch of tokens, let’s put in the best token synergy card, Skullclamp. Yes, draw all of the cards! Muhahahahaha. Parallel Lives will make sure that we can get enough snakes to make Samuel Jackson start ask questions. Cryptolith Rite will turn all of our creatures into Birds of Paradises and Beastmaster Ascension will let them attack for roughly a billion.
Synergies and Staples
Vhati il-Dal is another card I wanted to highlight in this deck. With the -1/-1 counters flying left and right, one of the best ways to deal with a creature is to then just make their toughness 1. The -1/-1 counter will finish the creature off.
I have a saying in Commander when playing green decks: “Don’t leave home without your Beast Within.” While giving your opponent a 3/3 beast can occasionally come back to bite you [pun intended? -Ed.], it often doesn’t in Commander. Regardless, there are always problematic permanents you need to deal with and a 3/3 is a small price to pay and the flexibility of Beast Within.
Let’s also top this off with some other green Commander staples. Cultivate, Kodama’s Reach and Sakura-Tribe Elder are awesome mana ramp and fixing tools. Beyond that, Eternal Witness and Craterhoof Behemoth are just some of the best possible Commander cards around. Finally, what kind of Golgari deck would this be if we didn’t play Putrefy?
I’ve made infect Commander decks in the past, so I shied away from that theme this go around. That being said, Hapatra would make for a pretty good infect Commander since creatures with infect deal damage in the form of -1/-1 counters which would mean that we would get snakes whenever our opponents blocked. Still, I included Triumph of the Hordes and Phyrexian Hydra as choice infect cards. I particularly like Phyrexian Hydra here since he’ll end up with -1/-1 counters himself.
Another way this deck could have been built is with more of a focus on the snake theme since Hapatra makes serpentine tokens. I decided to make this deck a little bit more of a grab bag then focusing on either one of those options, but they are certainly routes somebody might go with Hapatra.
Next week, I’ll bring you a deck featuring Samut, Voice of Dissent. Until then, we have announcement week to look forward to. Although I’m not sure I agree with it, I think Aetherworks Marvel is going to be seeing the ban hammer. I also expect them to announce the return of Core Sets so that we can get reprints such as Pithing Needle.
Alright, that’s it for me this week. Until next week, have fun playing those Commander Anthologies!